Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pickling 101 with the Experts - McClure's

A few weeks ago, my friend and I went back to the Brooklyn Kitchen and finally got to experience that pickle class that I mentioned some time ago. And I learned from the best- the very witty and entertaining, Bob McClure of McClure's Pickles. The McClure family business that originated from Detroit is now selling and making quite an impact in many places throughout the US, including New York. After all, they seem to be featured somewhere in the New York Times just about every two weeks!
Once the class got started, I was in for a real surprise. That night, we would not be making actual cucumber pickles that we are accustomed to getting at diners and delis, but that "pickling" was the overall term for the process of preserving food, like canning (or making jam). In fact, pickling and canning are terms that seem to be used interchangeably, but one is not the other based on the preservative (brine/vinegar) and process (boiling/vacuum packing) used. Or something like that. I'm still not totally clear on the differences, as I was busy taking my photographs.

Tonight, we would be pickling fresh asparagus, and learned that it is of the utmost importance to use the best base product possible. In addition to our vinegar-y brine, we used ginger, black pepper, and red pepper flakes for flavoring. This process definitely appeals to the science nerd in me covering everything from pH levels, basic physics, natural vacuums, timing, and fending off the threat of harmful bacteria.

My friend Layla (also from focaccia class) and I thought this would be another fun and basic food activity. I think it's so interesting to learn these preservation processes that our grandparents did as second nature. They were able to get through rough winters after their garden yielded crops that could not be consumed in time through inventive ways of preserving food. With the advent of tv dinners and fast food, we've gotten away from such old school practices of a bygone era. What's old is new again!

Stayed tuned for our next class which will probably be something simple like making carbonated beverages and natural sodas like rootbeer and sasparilla- I can't quite commit to the pig butchering class just yet.


  1. Never had pickled asparagus before but it looks scrumptious. I miss the pickled okra that I could always find when we lived in the South.


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